Last week, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arrested for the murders of eight people. Now, normally if anyone in the country is accused of murdering 8 people (and, in fact, a reading of the grand jury report indicates he is suspected in the murders of untold more, and I do mean untold), that would be big news. This has not been big news. It’s been covered, but not in the way the 24-hour news cycle covers, say, a missing blonde woman.
Gosnell ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia. Karnamaya Mongar, an immigrant from Nepal, died at his hands. That’s one of the murder charges. The rest are for some of the babies he delivered before cutting their spinal cord. The grand jury report is sickening. It tells of a shop of horrors — infant body parts stashed everywhere in the clinic (including the employee lunch refrigerator), unsterilized instruments, flea-ridden cats defecating throughout the facility. Again, a grand jury report this horrific would normally be bigger news.
In it we learn that Gosnell violated most regulations governing abortion. He performed abortions on minors without parental consent. He performed abortions past 24 weeks, sometimes very far past 24 weeks. He fudged the required ultrasounds. He skipped the required consultations. And the regulatory mechanisms in place in Pennsylvania did nothing to stop this. He was investigated a few times and written up for code violations, but nothing happened. A whistleblower went to the Board of Medicine to report Gosnell and nothing happened. One of his victims died of sepsis. He settled for almost a million dollars. The insurance company sent the information to Pennsylvania but nothing happened. There’s reference to other women dying, lawsuits, etc. State health workers inspected the site, took samples, but nothing happened. In the mid-1990s, pro-choice Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, ended regular inspections of abortion clinics, ensuring nothing would happen to Gosnell’s clinic.
One doctor personally complained to the Pennsylvania Department of Health about the spread of venereal disease from the clinic. That doctor used to refer underage girls to him for abortions. Even after that doctor became the head of the city’s health department two years ago, nothing happened. Nearby hospitals that kept treating Gosnell’s victims never did anything to turn him in, even though they knew abortions were taking place weeks after the 24-week cutoff. When the National Abortion Federation rejected Gosnell’s application shortly after the death of Mongar, the evaluator failed to report the clinic (“the worst she had ever inspected”) to anyone in authority. The Grand Jury report concludes:
Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that. But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.
What I’ve shared thus far is only through page 18 of a 281-page report.
The story was blogged about a lot last Wednesday. But on Thursday morning, none of the three broadcast networks mentioned it in their broadcasts. The articles I read were very succinct, particularly considering how many barbaric details are included in the grand jury report.
Time, the magazine that looked at Newsweek and said “Hey, let’s be more like them,” put their report on Gosnell in a health blog with the spin that this had nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with poverty.
The New York Times published two stories total about the murders. What’s interesting about the second story is that it focuses almost exclusively on what the clinic was like for women seeking abortions. Considering that seven of the eight murder charges are for infants born there, it’s just interesting that we learn nothing about what it’s like for a baby’s spine to be severed, or to be drowned in a toilet. Other outlets also wrote up women’s stories — all very heartbreaking to read. Here’s the Philly Inquirer and here’s the Associated Press.
In the CNN clip I embedded above, the host introduces the segment by saying that Gosnell is accused of “destroying viable fetuses.” Of course, it’s perfectly legal to destroy viable fetuses, although Gosnell also faces charges of violating laws regarding late-term abortions, too. But killing viable fetuses happens every day in clinics and hospitals around the country. What Gosnell is accused of is killing infants. The term “fetus” simply means an unborn child. But these children that Gosnell is accused of murdering had already been born. Perhaps that slip from the anchor reflects a general unease with covering these deaths, on account of the circumstances of their birth.
Will this be a story that interests the media beyond the first few days? That remains to be seen. The early days suggest otherwise. And in the meantime, the pro-life press seems to be the group figuring out new angles. Here, for instance, are reports about the other clinics in other states that Gosnell and his employees also worked at. We do see other stories about such abortion clinics every once in a while.
Have you seen any particularly good or bad coverage? What do you think about the general approach mainstream outlets have taken with this story?